Reaping the Benefits of Agile Beyond the Workplace


Do not ever take your work home with you. That is what I had always been told, and for the most part, I think that is great advice, but all that changed for me fifteen years ago when a trainer from Mountain Goat Software came and introduced Scrum to the company I was working for. After getting through that bumpy and rough first six months, I started to see the simplistic beauty of the Agile process and I could not take it home with me fast enough. It seemed like everywhere I looked there were opportunities to bring what I had learned about planning, estimating and prioritizing from my work life into my own personal life. I started creating mini Scrum backlogs for almost everything in my life. Things like my monthly dinner menus, my children’s chore charts, and even getting my taxes ready all seemed like perfect, little Scrum projects. Afterall, the Agile methodology is just a framework that can be used to deliver projects and products in the most timely and efficient way possible. With that in mind, it just made sense to use that same framework I had been successfully using at work to benefit other aspects of my life.


Last year, after years of saving money, my husband and I were finally ready to start the seemingly daunting project of remodeling our home. When I suggested that we use Scrum to organize and prioritize the project, my husband was skeptical at first. To me, it just made sense that I use the same method that I had been successfully doing for years on my projects at work on my projects at home because all of the same principles and elements were there. We knew we had a finite amount of money to spend, so it was imperative that we stayed within our fixed budget. We also had a pre-defined time period because we were planning to move into my mother’s home during the remodel while she was traveling abroad, but she would be returning in six months so we knew that slipping on our time deadline was not an option. Because of my experience working on software projects that had a fixed budget and a fixed time period, I knew that meant that we were going to have to limit our “work-in-progress” items. Prioritizing our backlog of items that needed to get done for the remodel was imperative because I knew that there was a very real possibility that the lower priority tasks were not going to get done either because we were going to run out of money or time. We had to determine which tasks we could live without, but also fit in plenty of those “nice-to-have” items that is what made me so excited to start this remodel in the first place.

In addition to creating and prioritizing the tasks in our backlog that needed to get done, I knew I needed to know the capacity of my “team” in order for me to know how long this project was really going to take. My “team” consisted of my husband who was not working at the time and could put in 8 hours a day, my father-in-law who committed to helping us ten hours a week, myself who was still working fulltime but could work in the evenings and on weekends, and even though we were planning on doing the majority of the work ourselves, I knew we would eventually have to bring in some contractors to do some of the work – just like bringing in additional members to a Scru